Saturday, 12 July 2014

20 spreadsheet principles for your business

  1. Determine what role spreadsheets play in your business, and plan your spreadsheet standards and processes accordingly. Spreadsheets are documents like any other.
  2. Adopt a standard recognisable form for your organisation and stick to it. Use the logo and think document quality.  Add a date, prepared by, reviewed by box.  The date will save sending spreadsheets with differant names eg SpreadsheetJanuary and SpreadsheetJuly.  Users can see whether its the latest.
  3. Ensure that everyone involved in the creation or use of spreadsheets has an appropriate level of know¬ledge and competence.  Take the time to present it and after a month re-present the spreadsheet to check understanding.
  4. Work collaboratively, share ownership, peer review.  The use of google drive makes this very easy and assists with document management as your changes are automatically saved so the document is upto date and co-worker contributions are not lost..
  5. Before starting, satisfy yourself that a spreadsheet is the appropriate tool for the job.  Will a word document do the job?
  6. Identify the audience. If a spreadsheet is intended to be understood and used by others, the design should facilitate this.  Not everyone is mathematical.  A few images work wonders.  Include an audience list of co-workers in the welcome sheet.
  7. Include an ‘About’ or ‘Welcome’ sheet to document the spreadsheet.  
  8. Design for longevity.  Have a few spreadsheets and stick to them.
  9. Focus on the required outputs.
  10. Separate and clearly identify inputs, workings and outputs.
  11. Be consistent in structure.
  12. Be consistent in the use of formulae.
  13. Keep formulae short and simple.
  14. Never embed in a formula anything that might change or need to be changed.
  15. Perform a calculation once and then refer back to that calculation.
  16. Avoid using advanced features where simpler features could achieve the same result.
  17. Have a system of backup and version control, which should be applied consistently within an organisation.
  18. Rigorously test the workbook.
  19. Build in checks, controls and alerts from the outset and during the course of spreadsheet design.
  20. Protect parts of the workbook that are not supposed to be changed by users.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Changes to ISAs – Budget 2014

As revealed last week in the Budget, from 1 July 2014 ISAs will have a new annual limit of £15,000 as opposed to £5,760 which is the current limit to cash ISAs and £11,520 for stocks and shares ISAs. The NISAs (New Individual Savings Accounts) will allow for greater saving without the need to pay tax and also reduce confusion between the different limits.

Money can be transferred from previous ISAs into the NISA to enable individuals to benefit from the increased limit.

Junior ISAs and Child Trust Funds will be increased to allow individuals to invest £4,000 a year, up from £3,720.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Council Tax Reductions (Council Tax Support)

Council Tax Reductions have taken over from the Council Tax benefit which were abolished in April 2013. These reductions are now run by each local council so qualifying conditions and exemptions will be different in each area and may not be the same as the previous benefit.

To be eligible you must either be on a low income or claiming benefits. You can either own the property or rent it.

The support you may receive will depend on factors such as:

·         Where you live
·         Your circumstances (e.g. income and number of children)
·         Your total household income
·         If your children live with you
·         If other adults live with you

A Discretionary Discount Scheme could be run by your local council to help with individuals in severe financial hardship but there is typically very limited funding in this area.

Individuals living alone will automatically receive a 25% discount in council tax as the rates are calculated under the assumption that 2 adults live in the property. Various types of individuals don’t qualify as adults, please follow the link to find out who may be able to receive this deduction.

Properties which are lived in solely by students are exempt from council tax.

Empty or unfurnished homes and properties that aren’t your main residence may also qualify for a discount.

Reduction in Council Tax for Disabled Persons

Reductions are available to individuals who are disabled or live with a person with a disability who require extra room in the property to meet their needs arising from a disability. This could also mean an extra bathroom or kitchen, or just extra space.

These discounts are designed to ensure that disabled people don’t pay more tax on account of space needed because of a disability.

Typically the discount will involve moving to the next cheapest council tax band. I.E. an individual living in a Band C property with a disability will have to pay at the Band B rate instead.

People who are severely mentally impaired and some live-in carers are exempt when working out council tax.

Visit your local Council’s website for more information and details on how to apply.

Hinckley & Bosworth District Council

01455 255 623

Friday, 14 March 2014

Motability Rules

Disabled individuals who receive one of the following benefits at the specific rates may be able to exchange their mobility allowance to lease a new car, scooter or powered wheelchair.

You may be eligible if you receive one of:

·         The Higher Rate Mobility Component of the Disability Living Allowance (£55.25 a week)
·         The Enhanced Rate of the Mobility Component of the Personal Independence Payment (£55.25 a week)
·         Armed Forces Independence Payment (£55.25)
·         War Pensioners’ Mobility Supplement (£61.75)

The Attendance Allowance cannot be used to lease a car through Motability.

Of the 2000 types of car available, 450 cost no more than your weekly allowance, and so will therefore not cost any more money. For the more expensive cars, an advanced payment will be needed.

This scheme allows for the individual to receive various benefits instead of receiving mobility allowance:

·         A brand new car or vehicle every 3 years.
·         Included servicing and maintenance
·         Insurance
·         Full breakdown assistance from RAC
·         Annual Car Tax organised for you
·         Many adaptions at no extra cost
·         Window and windscreen repair
·         60000 mileage allowance over the 3 years.

There is no upper age limit. The individual must have at least 12 months award length remaining.
Parents or guardians can order a car on behalf of a child aged 3 or over who is receiving the Higher Rate Mobility Component of the Disability Living Allowance.

As part of the lease, 2 named drivers can be included. Neither have to be the individual who receives the benefit and they don’t even have to be able to drive. Although, nominated drivers should live within 5 miles of the disabled customers address. Only 1 nominated driver under the age of 21 is permitted.

A 3rd named driver can be added at an additional cost.

Use the link below to find out more information and to also request the exchange to occur.

Attendance Allowance

Attendance Allowance is a benefit for people aged 65 or over who have a physical and/or mental disability. To be eligible, the disability needs to be severe enough that you require help caring for yourself or someone to supervise you, for your own or someone else’s safety.

There are 2 weekly rates which are dependent on the level of help you need:

·         £53 a week – Frequent help or constant supervision during the day, or        supervision at night.

·         £79.15 a week – Help or supervision throughout both day and night, or you’re terminally ill.

You may get Attendance Allowance if:
·         You are 65 or over when you make the claim
·         You are not entitled to Disability Living Allowance
·         You are not entitled to Personal Independence Payment
·         You have needed help or care for at least 6 months

Special Rules do however, apply if the person will be suffering from a progressive disease, and their death can be reasonably expected within six months.

  • This means there is much less information that the person has to enter on the claim form. Claims made under the special rules are given priority treatment.

  • The claim can be made either by the person who is terminally ill or by someone acting on their behalf. If someone completes the form on their behalf, the terminally ill individual does not have to sign it themselves. They will be notified that a claim for Attendance Allowance has been made but not under the special rules (in case they are not aware of the full nature of their condition).

  • Claim must be made on the Attendance Allowance form.

  • A short medical report about the terminally ill person's condition must be sent in with the claim forms for Attendance Allowance and Disability Living Allowance. This report is called DS1500 and is available from a doctor, specialist or consultant.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Carer's Allowance

Carer’s Allowance is a benefit designed to help people who look after another individual who is disabled. It is paid to the individual that does the caring. Two people cannot get Carer’s Allowance at the same time for looking after the same person. To be eligible you need to fulfil the criteria beneath.

1.      The person you are looking after is getting  one of the following benefits

·         Attendance Allowance
·         Constant Attendance Allowance at or above - the normal maximum rate, as an addition to Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit, or – the basic, full-day rate as an addition to a War Disablement Pension.
·         Armed Forces Independence Payments.
·         Personal Independence Payment at either rate of the Daily Living Component.
·         The care component of Disability Living Allowance at the middle or highest rate. The mobility component is not a qualifying benefit for Carer’s Allowance.

2.       You are aged 16 or over.

3.      You are looking after a disabled person for at least 35 hours a week (can mean cooking meals or helping them with their shopping).

4.      You normally live in Great Britain.

5.      You do not earn more than £100 a week (after expenses, National Insurance Contributions, Income Tax)

6.      You are not in full time education, or on holiday from a course of full time education.

7.      You are not subject to immigration control (Are some exceptions to this).

Monday, 17 February 2014

Changes to Director’s Loan Accounts

When a Director of a company takes money out of the business in a form other to salary and dividends, which exceeds the amount of money they have put in, this is known as a director’s loan. This could be money withdrawn or even personal expenses claimed using company funds.

If the director’s loan is paid off in full by the end of your company’s accounting period:

·         -Your company does not pay corporation tax on the loan.
·         -You don’t need to tell HMRC about the loan on your Company Tax Return.

You will, however, need to include it in your Company Tax Return if you either:

·         -Take a further loan within 30 days of (before or after) the repayment.
·         -Have arrangements in place for a further loan to be made at the time of the repayment.

If your director’s loan is paid off in full within 9 months and 1 day of the end of your company’s accounting period:

·         -Your company does not pay corporation tax on the loan.
·         -You must include details of that loan in your Company Tax Return.

You will, however, need to pay Corporation Tax on the loan if you either:

·         -Take a further loan within 30 days of (before or after) the repayment.
·         -Have arrangements in place for a further loan to be made at the time of the repayment.

If your director’s loan is not paid off within 9 months and 1 day of the company’s accounting year end:

·         -Your company must pay Corporation Tax on the loan – the current tax rate for a director’s loan is 25% of the loan (i.e. a company with a director’s loan account which is £10,000 overdrawn will have to pay £2500 corporation tax on that loan).
·         -You must include details of the loan in your Company Tax Return.
·         -HMRC will charge interest on the amount unpaid.

Claiming relief after your director’s loan has been repaid

If you do have to pay corporation tax and the director’s loan has been paid back in full, the amount of the corporation tax can be reclaimed. This can only be done in a window starting 9 months after the end of the accounting period in which the loan was paid off. Claims must be made before within 4 years from the end of the financial year in which the loan is repaid. Any interest paid is not reclaimable.

Director’s Loans that are written off or released

When the loan is written off or released, it does not need to be repaid. Instead the amount written off is treated as personal income and needs to be included on the personal self-assessment tax return, NIC’s will also need to be paid.

Director’s Loan – Change to Benefit In Kind

Previously, when the director’s loan account was overdrawn by £5000 or more, the loan amount was treated as a benefit in kind. The threshold has since been increased to £10,000.

This means that the director will have to pay income tax based on HMRC’s official rate of interest of the loan if they owe the company £10,000 or more. It must be reported on the director’s Self-Assessment Tax Return. The benefit in kind can be avoided by paying interest to the company on the loan at or above the HMRC official rate. Class 1A NIC’s will also have to be payable by the company.

If the director owes less than £10,000 then they have no responsibilities with regard to income tax and national insurance. They do, however, still have to adhere to the above rules on corporation tax.

Closing the loophole on bed and breakfasting

This loophole was widely used as a method to avoid paying the corporation tax on the loan. Repayment of the loan would be made to the company before the 9 months and 1 day deadline, but not long later the director then re-loans the money. Even after the company pays the tax, the loophole was available to re-loan the money not long afterwards and to then re-claim the tax.

New rules have been brought in to deny relief where tax has been paid if, within a 30 day period, repayments of more than £5000 are paid to the company from directors and which are then later re-loaned.

Where this 30 day rule does not apply, relief will also be denied if there are amounts outstanding of at least £15,000 at the time of repayment and there are future arrangements or intentions to re- loan this money to the director’s.  

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Taking a year in a Work Placement

Since July 2013, I have been employed at Brealey Foster & Co as the placement student. In this role I am primarily responsible for the personal tax element of our clients’ tax returns, but also will be assigned tasks which offer an insight into different aspects of accounting.

Personally, the main reason for taking up a work placement was to gain an understanding of what a career in accounting was about and to familiarise myself with the office environment. This is possible in my current position as I am able to experience all the topics that I studied during my first two years of university using real figures that belong to actual people. A greater degree of care and accuracy is therefore something that you will learn during an accounting placement, which I hope to take forward with me in my final year of study and into future job applications.

The change from theory to actual projects is initially daunting, but once you settle into the job and the workplace it is very satisfying to see happy clients and senior members of staff. The main advantage of experiencing a placement is the increased level of confidence that it gives you. Even self-assured individuals can develop skills to improve their appearance to future employers.

No matter how confident you are, your personal skills can always improve and weaknesses can be transformed into strengths. Before taking on the work placement I feared that my lack of presenting skills would hold me back in my career. Since coming into Brealey Foster & Co, I have been given genuine responsibility which in turn means my role is client facing. As a result, throughout the year my communication skills with clients have vastly improved. Not only do you need to talk over the phone but are also involved in meetings where you are in charge of giving guidance and explaining your work.

You will also improve your organisational skills. With personal tax computations, there is a self-assessment deadline at the end of January. Time management was therefore required to ensure that all work is completed before the end date and all clients were happy.

The process of a work placement doesn't start on your first day of work. The effort you put in towards application processes and interviews will reflect well to employers. Getting a few knock-backs before my interview with Brealey Foster & Co, allowed me time to evaluate the areas where I needed to improve and it helped me to analyse what companies wanted in a placement student. All in all, the route from deciding you want to do a placement year all the way to completion is entirely worthwhile.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Lib Dems proposed "Mansion Tax"

Nick Clegg has this week suggested that the Liberal Democrats will enforce more taxes on the wealthy should they get in power. The ‘Mansion Tax’ will be an annual levy of 1% on the taxpayers of all homes valued over £2m. A move which is also supported by Labour, it was previously put forward in the run up to the last election. The Conservatives opposed it, and so was not enacted in the current coalition government.

The proposed levy promises to divide opinion, but for many it will be seen as a welcome alternative to the existing policy of public spending cuts. In answer to opposition, Clegg has claimed that relevant home owners who are “asset rich” only and are not on high incomes may be able defer payment. Certainly one to keep an eye on.

Monday, 3 February 2014

Transferability of Personal Allowance from 2015/16 onwards (Autumn Statement)

As featured in the Autumn Statement, a new option will be available to married couples and civil partnerships from the 2015/16 tax year onwards.

The new feature will enable an individual to transfer up to £1000 of his/her personal allowance to his/her spouse or civil partner. Couples that only live together and are not married/in a civil partnership will not be eligible. In the following years from 2015/16, the transferable amount will be increased in proportion with Personal Allowance levels.

This transfer will only be allowed if both members of the marriage/civil partnership are not higher rate of additional rate taxpayers (earning below £41,685 at current levels).

As a result, it only seems to benefit partners which have one member not earning as much as the personal allowance figure. This transfer will enable the other partner to reduce his/her tax bill by taking on the additional personal allowance.